We need more.
The Christian world (in America, at least) has gone through some painful experiences the past week or so. And honestly, I’m grateful to World Vision for opening up this can of worms. More evangelicals have posted and written and blogged apologies for their hostile brethren, they’ve searched their hearts and seen how they’ve been guilty of applying a double-standard of Christian love to their LGBT “brothers and sisters.”
And yet, even when I think I’ve moved on, when I think “great, this has all been an eye-opener for the world,” I got hit with a new feeling. Being patronized.
I just read a blog that was well-circulated on Facebook. The writer talked about how her heart was torn when she read the piece by “Registered Runaway” about being done with evangelicalism, about being so wounded that he just gave up on the Church. She talked about how this issue has really polarized American Christianity, and that it’s become bitter and ugly and unlike the character of the Lord we all profess. And she talked about how she wanted to keep her views to herself so as not to be another bullet in somebody’s gun fired at the other side. And the comments by straight Christians were almost touching, “wow, she really nailed that one”, “I couldn’t have said it better myself”, “Lord, help me to live this out in your love.” All very nice. Even touching.
Except she then stated her position. It was kindly worded, but contained those words we LGBT Christians have grown to hate. “Sin” and “not God’s best.” “Yes, we truly love gay people, and Jesus loves them too. And yes, we even believe that they will share in eternal heaven with us.” … BUT … “it’s not God’s best”, “God didn’t design us to live and love that way.”
And I wonder if I really want her loving support after all.
It is really, really nice to have one less person lined up to actually throw a stone at me and my friends. I thank God for his mercy in moving their hearts so they at least do not want me jailed or executed for loving someone of the same gender. That is progress. That is a huge blessing, especially compared to that church in NYC whose marquis read that Jesus would endorse my stoning. Or those in the militant camp exporting their religious purity to countries like Uganda, Russia, Peru, Nigeria, and others, who now believe that by murdering gay men in the street, by publicly stripping them and setting them on fire, they are reclaiming their country for God.
My gay friends in Asia tell me repeatedly that we have it so much easier in America – our government isn’t actively persecuting us, and even our churches don’t hate us that much.
And I am grateful. I am grateful to live in a time like this when at least the Church is actively talking about the issue, and more and more people of God are embracing gay and lesbian believers as full brothers and sisters in Christ. (Transgender folks, well, we’ve still got a ways to go before the Church embraces you for who you really are.)
But the question keeps going through my head.
What kind of love is that?
These well-intentioned Christian bloggers have made progress in their own spiritual and cultural journeys. They’ve been touched in a new way by the heart of God. They join Jesus in not being the first to cast the stone.
But I’m still the disgusting Samaritan.
Okay, maybe not completely disgusting. Just fallen. Broken. Second class in God’s eyes. Sinner.
The eyes still have blind spots. We can now, thankfully, fully embrace our divorced brothers and sisters. They can even be ordained into church leadership in many denominations. They are no longer shunned, even in congregations that don’t theologically approve of divorce. I haven’t heard the words “sinner” or “not God’s best” applied to them in decades.
But LGBT believers, we’re still “not as God designed.”
I want to scream at them. Did God design us to wear clothes? (Clothes were a result of the Fall, remember?) Are you “not God’s best” because you wear glasses? Surely, God did not design us to need those. What about single men or women, saints who live their whole lives unmarried. This was definitely not how God intended us to live – at least if you’re using Eden as the rule. Or honoring the Sabbath — something rooted in the Garden as part of God’s design for all humanity, yet Christians don’t bat an eye at completely ignoring this integral component of life. I won’t even venture into other areas where we are not in full alignment with the paradise of Eden – all you have to do is compare your vision of Adam and Eve side-by-side with your own life. How close are you to that “original design”?
“God’s best” is best left between God and the individual — not an outsider judging someone else’s life based on their own interpretation of God’s original design and purposes.
Fred Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church, and this World Vision debacle have opened the eyes of many Christians to the ugliness of hate within our sanctuaries. And many have taken steps to resist that kind of unChristian behavior. And that’s great.
But we need more. And not just we LGBT believers. You straight believers need to do better, need to walk in a more perfect love.
Because all you’ve done is find a kinder, gentler way
of saying “love the sinner, hate the sin.”
And we’ve had enough of that.
Our job as the people of God is to love. As simple as that. Love God, love our neighbor. And that doesn’t include calling someone else a “sinner.” Or “not God’s best.” Ever.
The Church will never come into complete agreement on any issue, let alone one as culturally upsetting as this one. And, speaking for many of my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, we thank you sincerely for making progress, for stretching, for being willing to discuss matters of sexuality and identity. Believe me, we know that is a huge step for a big segment of American Christianity. And as much as we’d like you to see things our way, we know some of you never will. It’s just not realistic. We can handle that.
But for those who truly want to act in love, please, take the next step. Go beyond merely not throwing a stone at us. Accept us. Don’t refer to us as second-best, as sinners. “Accept one another as Christ has accepted you,” the Apostle Paul tells us (Rom 15:7). Even when you disagree with us, follow the example of Jesus in his dealings with Samaritans. He didn’t agree theologically with them, but he loved them, he hung out with them, he stayed in their villages. He did not make them feel second-class: he was their savior as well as the messiah of the Jews.
We appreciate the strides you’ve made, but we need more. It would be nice to be seen as beloved children of God, as brothers and sisters sharing in a glorious inheritance, as equals and joint heirs, rather than being labeled as “that sin”. Or as “not God’s best.” It’s nice not to have one more person throwing the stones, but that’s not the same as acceptance. We can feel the difference. And it still hurts.
photo credit: “God is Love,” MythicSeabass via photopin cc
STEVE SCHMIDT serves on the pastoral staff of Expressions Church in Oklahoma City. He is a graduate of the seminary at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK, and holds two masters degrees in Biblical Literature and Divinity. He did his doctoral research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. He blogs at CafeInspirado.com, and you can always find him skulking on Facebook.